The Benefits of Pen Pals for Seniors
The art of letter writing isn’t lost after all.
As our world becomes more fast-paced and screen-intensive, many have turned to pen pals to slow down and find connection. (Especially stuck at home during COVID-19!) For older adults who are feeling lonely, exchanging words with a pen pal can have a special impact, bringing joy and helping combat elderly depression and mental illness.
If you or a loved one is experiencing isolation, pen pals for seniors can be an ideal activity to reconnect with the outside world. Let’s go over the benefits of pen pals for seniors, as well as some tips for finding one and building a great letter relationship.
What are pen pals for seniors?
Pen pals are people who regularly send each other letters through the mail. Pen pals may be of any age or write from any location, but the idea is to exchange letters regularly and find connection.
For seniors, it’s common for pen pals to be locals, such as those from a church or an elementary school. However, you don’t need a formal pen pal program. Anybody with a willingness to form a letter relationship can become a pen pal for a senior.
What are the benefits of pen pals for seniors?
Pen pals can truly transform a senior’s daily living experience. Older adults are often overlooked by society, but pen pals can refocus attention on them. For example, the mere act of receiving a letter from a pen pal can completely brighten a senior’s day.
Some other benefits of pen pals for seniors include:
- Combating loneliness
- Making new connections
- Good for adults who are hard of hearing or unfamiliar with technology
- Sparking joy and curiosity
- Reducing elderly depression and anxiety
In particular, pen pals are great for seniors who have a hard time hearing over the phone or during in-person visits. Letter writing lets them express themselves without the anxiety of not hearing others well. It’s also a plus for seniors who are unfamiliar with technology and would feel more comfortable simply writing down their thoughts.
How do I find pen pals for seniors?
You can find pen pals for seniors almost everywhere. To start your search, try:
- Asking your community organizations. It’s common for senior living communities to create pen pal partnerships with local organizations, including churches, elementary schools, rotary clubs or volunteer organizations.
- Contacting formal pen pal programs, such as Ready to Care or the Snail Mail Social Club.
- Connecting with local Facebook groups. Often coordinators will start Facebook groups to help connect seniors with local pen pals.
- Checking with friends or family. Sometimes you can find interesting pen pals through your own grandkids or family friends who live in foreign countries.
There’s no one way to find a pen pal for a senior. All these search methods can help you find a safe, friendly pen pal, so check them out!
Tips for a great pen pal relationship
Building a pen pal relationship is a unique sort of friendship. To create bonds that last, here are some tips to get you started:
1. Stay safe by not sharing sensitive info.
While it’s great to open up to a pen pal, avoid any info that would be unsafe to share, such as personal ID numbers, banking information or passwords. You should also avoid saying when you’ll be out of town or other info that could put you at risk.
2. Write how you speak.
No need to get fancy. Writing a letter may make you feel silly at first, but try to write how you speak. It’s a conversation after all! Try not to feel too self-conscious about your writing, either. It’s more important to share your stories than to write them down perfectly.
3. Start by talking about your passions.
If you’re not sure what to say, start with your interests. You can talk about your hobbies, favorite books/movies and other passions. In addition, you can talk about your daily routine or mention your upcoming plans to see friends or enjoy the weekend.
4. Find common ground.
Everybody is unique, but you can create bonds by looking for things you have in common. Try to find interests you both enjoy so you can continue to discuss them.
5. Ask questions (and answer your pen pal’s!).
The key to letter writing is also asking questions. Be sure to ask about your pen pal’s interests and stories frequently in your letters. This will give him/her plenty to respond to and can enrich your friendship with caring questions.
6. Send tiny goodies, such as pictures, poems, etc.
Pen pals typically don’t send formal gifts. However, you don’t have to go big to show that you care. Any little trinkets that fit in an envelope are fair game and can add a special something to your letter. Feel free to send tiny goodies, such as pictures, poems, a friendship bracelet or any other homemade item.
7. Be patient.
Not everybody has the same idea of letter-writing frequency. Don’t be anxious to receive a reply. Instead, be patient and let your pen pal take his/her time to respond mindfully. If you find that one pen pal relationship is dwindling, don’t get angry either. Instead, try to strike up a relationship with one or more new pen pals so that you always have incoming letters.
Get a pen pal for a senior today
Pen pals are a heartwarming way to connect seniors with others and build new bonds. Even the small act of writing a letter can change a senior’s daily living: receiving a letter, thinking of a reply, telling stories, showing care and connecting with others can be a special experience for any older adult.
To enjoy the benefit of pen pals for seniors, start searching for one for you or a loved one today. Or if you’re interested in becoming a pen pal for a senior, contact senior living communities near you to start bringing an older adult joy.
Don’t forget to check out our My Caring Plan blog for more care resources and tips, too!
- Pen Pals Share the Joy of Letter Writing, AARP, www.aarp.org
- There’s Never Been A Better Time To Have A Pen Pal, Huffpost, www.huffpost.com
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